Directed by Jake West, 2005
Take a look at Brit Jake West’s IMDB profile and you’ll notice he is the director and editor of over a dozen documentaries on horror film icons, so it should come as no surprise when I say that his latest film, Evil Aliens, is overloaded with what probably amounts to the most genre references I’ve ever seen in a single movie. Normally, such blatant name checking would be offensive, but Evil Aliens doesn’t have a single serious bone in its entire anatomy – and with as many severed limbs as this movie has, you get a pretty clear view of its insides.
That’s exactly how Jake West wanted it, so credit is given where credit is due, but if splatterstick isn’t how you like your horror, you’ll absolutely loathe Evil Aliens. I’m actually touch and go when it comes to the sillier stuff – sometimes it works for me, often times it doesn’t – but West’s script is so wildly absurd that by the time it finished throwing everything at the screen (hell, there probably was a shot of someone throwing a kitchen sink at one of the aliens – and if not, there should have been!), I had to respect the highly, highly engineered stupidity of it all.
As good an indicator as what you’re getting into as any, the flick opens with a sweeping shot of a couple having sex in the middle of a field, only to be abducted. The man is probed in a most horrific (and entirely unnecessary) fashion, and then the girl is returned back to earth. Pregnant. A sleazy TV show equivalent of the Weekly World News sends out its investigative crew: the skanky host, coked up camera and sound men, nerdy UFO expert, and two no-standards actors to re-enact the entire thing. They arrive at the girl’s home, which happens to be on an island which is only accessible when the tide goes out, and are shortly introduced to the fact that the girl’s story was real, that there are aliens, and for almost no reason, they are evil.
The movie barrels headfirst into extreme immaturity, which is both its yellow sun and its kryptonite (sorry, I was watching Smallville before writing this). I got a kick out of all the outlandish violence, which increases exponentially with each alien encounter and progressively involves more and more lost limbs and organs, and easily forgave the low-budget CGI work – which is actually better than you’d expect at times, and about as bad as you’d expect at others – thanks to the bounty of prosthetic and practical effects. However, I’m not a fan of all the bodily fluids, other than blood, that West delights in splattering across his cast and cameras. Intentionally crude, sure, but its a little too crude for my own delight. Then again, West almost instantly tops any of his immaturity with more immaturity, so if one gag doesn’t hit its mark, one of the next six, which arrive in rapid-fire succession, will.
It is hit and miss – but the sheer volume of attempts makes any imbalance of hits versus misses nearly imperceptible by the time the film is over. And it goes out with an ending which I personally thought fit brilliantly, which bodes well for the, "wow them in the end and they’ll forget about the rest", tendency of filmmaking.
When anyone makes a movie like this, it is a scientific impossibility that comparisons to Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson can be escaped. While he may not be as innovative as the men he emulates, Jake West has got a lot of admirable energy as a director. As a writer, at this stage I’m not sure he could fully handle a refrained, character piece of horror (which is what I love), but if splatterstick is what he does best, he certainly does it well enough to warrant the comparisons to the aforementioned pioneers. There’s actually a scene where Candy, the bottom-of-the-food-chain actress brought in for re-enactments, thinks about using a lawn mower for a weapon, but puts it down for a handheld, fully automatic soil-tiller. The scene is set up almost exactly like the groundbreaking lawnmower scene in Dead Alive and is edited with a touch of blood drenched light bulb, Evil Dead nostalgia.
While that scene is, stylistically, one of the more obvious genre references, West manages to jab in countless dialogue or set pieces which drop winks at everything from Jaws to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. With a bucket of in-jokes in one hand, West turns to his check list of what low-budget, starter horror must have these days: sex (inter-species included), persistent cleavage, fart jokes, disgusting bodily fluids, a gay character, a slutty character, rednecks, masturbation and decapitations. And then he goes even overboard past that, which may result in you saying, "kay, we get it, enough already!"
I was ready to write off Evil Aliens as just another check list film, but West’s personal list of requirements reads like a 13 year old horror geek’s pitch letter to his favorite director. I found myself letting my guard down and really getting some smiles and laughs in and writing this review made me realize I actually liked it a lot more than I thought I had. Even with all its flaws (I could have done without all the shameless toliet humor), it’s a good party movie that may not be as good as the movies it aspires to be, but it’s not nearly as bad as all the others that try the same thing.
If you live in NY or LA and do love childish splatterstick, you can catch Evil Aliens on the silver screen in September (thanks to Magic Lamp Releasing, oddly enough the same group behind Dancer in the Dark, Sex, Lies and Videotape, and Reservoir Dogs), but for the rest of the world, this is a DVD contender for a fun Saturday night with a group of slightly intoxicated friends; you’ll lose sight of whether or not you’re laughing at or with the movie, so either way you’ll get your money’s worth.